A borrowed rant, but one I can relate to

A good friend and former co-worker recently posted an open rant on FB after receiving a take-home package following the first day of school. While the spin is Canadian, I think lots of us can relate, particularly those with school-age kids.

<open rant> My school board has been taken over by lawyers! First day of school package includes: new policy on locked schools, warning that kids can strangle themselves in playground, numerous release forms for everything you can imagine (same info 8 times). My favourite form informs me that “participation [in recess] involves risk of injury, minor or serious, including permanent disability.” Here is my favourite part: “For specific examples of injuries related to the activity, contact the school.” Really?
Dear School Board Administrators: stop watching CNN and Fox. Please focus on providing an engaging educational environment. Stop teaching my kids that the world is hostile. We live in Canada!
Thank you.
</end rant>

So, where exactly do we start with this?

When did the start of school trigger a flurry of this kind of liability paperwork? Where have we, as a societly, allowed the public education system to degenerate into this politicized, litiginous, bureaucratic juggernaut? I dunno about you, but I’m starting to look for the remaining three horsemen.

A little civil disobedience: hacking the information harvest

Vendor: Hi there! We have an awesome new white paper that we want to share with the community! Here’s the link

Me: Hey, cool! <clicks link>

Vendor: Oh yeah, before you can get this amazingly captivating little tidbit you need to provide us with all this information so our sales reps can follow-up with you after you read it.

Me: Oh boy, here we go again. Read the rest of this entry

$h!t my SME says – an archive post from colleague Trina Rimmer

SME/ID Anger (image credit: Microsoft Corporation)

How often do we do this when dealing with SMEs? Or vice-versa?  (image credit: Microsoft Corporation)

Yep, I’m certain there’s a book in there somewhere…

My PLN colleague, Trina Rimmer, was sharing a few tongue-in-cheek thoughts about SMEs today (through Twitter).  Granted, as she points out, there’s likely communications faults on both sides but I think we tend to view the “ID/SME” relationship with a reasonable amount of good gallows humour particularly after the fact. Read the rest of this entry

Calling out the vendors: Lessons learned

I’m pretty impressed with a recent series of events where respected L&D community member Judy Katz called out vendor MindFlash on their rather interesting “engagement measurement/assistance” tool, FocusAssist. The tool was discussed in this article from Learning Solutions Magazine.

You can read Judy’s post on the matter here, and a quick check of the #FocusAssist hashtag on Twitter will shed some additional light.

So, I learned a few things by watching this drama unfold, and by participating.

1. The L&D community appreciates the benefits of EdTech, but is also profoundly aware of the scary possibilities when the (potentially) wrong kind of tech is introduced to educational settings with (seemingly) little thought on impact and abuses.

2. We are quick to stand up for one another. It’s a nice thing to know that folks like @aaronesilvers, @moehlert, @reubentozman, and others will have your back when it’s needed (and sometimes even when you don’t know you need it).

3. There are some vendors who aren’t afraid to think outside the box and try solutions, even ones that may not be widely understood. It’s about prototyping and learning from the experience.

4. Judging from the positive and appreciative response from the vendor, it reinforces the notion that, as a community, we shouldn’t be afraid to call vendors out when we see something that doesn’t necessarily fit with our values and notions of what is right. There’s a two-fold value in doing so: i) we start thinking a little more critically about what we see, and ii) we learn a bit more about the vendor through their response (or lack of response).

5. Social technologies and an engaged L&D community can make things happen pretty quickly.  So, kudos to Judy for raising the issue, and equal kudos to Randhir Vieira from MindFlash, not only for joining the conversation, but also for being open about what they don’t know.  I think that speaks well of them.

It was interesting to watching this all unfold. It will be equally interesting to see if the conversation continues.

I Am Canadian, A Reply to Bell’s Open Letter

Mark L. Sheppard:

While not specific to learning, the stance of Rogers and Bell has an impact on the ability of Canadians to harness high-speed wireless networks for anywhere-anytime learning. We already pay exorbitant rates. Lets get some competition in here.

Originally posted on Angelus Novus:

Dear Mr. Cope,

Amongst your many traits as CEO of Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), tenacity, enthusiasm for your trade, and perseverance top the list. Conspicuous in its absence from your letter, however, is your sense of irony.

You begin the “unusual step of writing to all Canadians” (Strange, isn’t it, that “Canada’s Top Communication Company” should find it unusual to communicate with its customers?) with a history lesson, ostensibly in the interest of helping us “understand a critical situation” now facing the wireless industry: the potential entrance of an American company into the Canadian market.

You inform us that, since Parliament granted Bell its charter in 1880, Bell has spent 133 years “investing in delivering world-class communications services to Canadians.” An impressive track record!

You must, however, be aware that Bell’s permission to operate in Canada was initially obtained by agents acting in the interest of the (American) National Bell…

View original 1,144 more words

From the Daily Prompt: Back to School

If I could go back to school? I’d do carpentry. Fine carpentry. I have always enjoyed working with wood and building things. Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be as much time to do it as I’d like to and the skills tend to erode.

If I couldn’t do that, I’d do automotive stuff, particularly body work and refinishing.

How I Work

Following in some distinguished footsteps, I now share some insights and a sneak-peek into How I Work.

Without further ado….

Mark's headshot.

Hi, I’m Mark Sheppard. This is How I Work.
Don’t I look Professional?

Location:

Just outside The Big Smoke (a.k.a. Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Current Gig:

Instructional Development Officer at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering. (On long-term contract)

Current mobile device:

A remarkably resilient but slowly failing iPhone 4

Current computer:
(Work 1) A standard Defence Wide Area Network configuration PC, somewhat slow but very secure.

(Work 2) A more recent laptop on a separate, secondary wireless network enabling me freer but not insecure access to the broader Internet and, of course, the PLN.

(Home) I usually just share the iPad or my wife’s Mac, or just use my PlayBook. There is a crummy Acer Netbook that sometimes deigns to allow me to use iTunes, as long as I’m not in a huge hurry to sync my phone. Or do anything else, for that matter.

One word that describes how you work:

Chaos (controlled)

Why didn’t you just use one word there, Mark?

Because I hate artificial/arbitrary boundaries. Don’t judge me.

What apps/tools/gadgets can you simply not live without?

  1. My phone. It is my link to the outside world

    A process sketch from work

    Process/Workflow Sketch

  2. Twitter
  3. Evernote
  4. Pencils (sometimes you just can’t beat the venerable graphite when you need to sketch out ideas. This is a tribute to my graphic design training)
  5. I should also include the growing love for my Livescribe SmartPen
  6. Red pens (invariably used to mark-up hard copy documents when I’m in editing mode and need to think outside the comment function)
  7. Audiobooks/audio dramas/educational podcasts
  8. Flipchart-sized Post-Its.

What’s your workspace like?

Well, you could charitably call the state of my desk “random”, but it is controlled chaos. I believe a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind. For all my love of tech, sometimes I need to lay my hands on paper…particularly because most bureaucracies love their hard copies of stuff and the military is no different.

Mark's Workspace

My desk is in the back corner by the bike
(click to enlarge)

I share an office with 4 other people and on the chaos scale, I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle.

What’s your best time saving trick?

Use the right tool for the job. e.g. don’t follow a linear process (“ADDIE, you’re on!”) for interactive online learning.

Oh, and template everything.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

It’s a toss-up.  1) Packing suitcases. In my Army days I learned very quickly that if you were going to carry your house on your back, you had better have it packed well, and suitably organized. 2) Navigating. I spent years doing Reconnaissance in the Army, and it’s a skill that got honed quite well. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally take wrong turns, but it does mean I can find my way back out, and that’s the harder trick.

What do you listen to while you work?

I tend not to listen to much while I’m working, other than the white noise from the ductwork and the amusing commentary from my teammates (our pun-fests are not to be missed). However, because I have a insane long commute to/from work, I have lots of time to listen to a variety of aural amusements.  So, my driving soundtrack usually doesn’t bother with a lot of radio (although I did find a good Jazz station as a nice diversion) and I listen to a broad range of audiobooks, full-cast audio dramas (usually British, sci-fi, etc.), audio comedies, sci-fi fan fiction, and some educational or through-provoking podcasts related to L&D.  In the event that I need to tune out at work, I will switch to classical, jazz, or prog rock.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

If you ask me, I’m an introvert. If you ask people I have met professionally, they consider me an extrovert.  I can’t rationalize the dichotomy so I don’t even try.  This is me.  Enjoy the ride.

Desk Shot

A few inspirations and silliness

What’s your sleep routine like?

I try to get to bed early because I’m up very early to try and beat the traffic (when the one-way trek is 140km, this is essential).  I occasionally grapple with the snooze bar. I’m ahead on points over the career match-up, but only just.  I usually fall asleep to audio of some kind. My wife doesn’t get how I do that, particularly if it’s an interesting story, but there are some audiobook narrators that are soothing enough that I can fall asleep. Many’s the tale I’ve had to forcibly listen to in the daytime because I’ve never gotten past the prologue. I have a strange, occasional habit of waking up around 3AM. Nobody is sure why. Oh, and if I do wake up, I can’t look at the time, otherwise I’m too ‘anchored’. It’s better if I just go back to sleep, rather than ponder just how little time I have left until I really have to get up.

Best Piece of Advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t be afraid to screw up.” Wise words from a Captain I once worked for when I was a young, keen Corporal in the Reserves. I admit I sometimes lose sight of this guidance when I get run over by my own enthusiasm, but I try to keep it as a reminder to take risks once in a while, and not to worry about the consequences.

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.

Getting the whole PLN to play along would be nice, but as unlikely as it is, I’d love to see Harold Jarche answer these questions, with Jane Bozarth being a close second.

Quick Update

Pardon me while I blow the dust off the blog.

My day job has been full and rich of late, leaving precious time to carefully craft suitable offerings here. However, here are a few highlights:

  • I completed a major ID undertaking that occupied the entire month of June. This entailed the design of the Training Plan for a new course encompassing the common foundational training for all RCAF aircraft technicians. The next phase of the project is to lead the development of the entire 3 month course and all the learning assets.
  • I am currently engaged in a new Stanford MOOC on Design Thinking. So far it’s fascinating and very inspiring. I even managed to entice my PLN colleague Bianca Woods to join in the fun.
  • I am also training for my first ever half-marathon. I’m training 5 days out of 7. While that time is great for clearing my head, I haven’t found a way to blog while running. I am now accepting suggestions for this challenge.

Coming up next, my own take on Lifehacker’s “How I Work”.

Leaving ADDIE for SAM. With a Crossbow?

I got a chuckle out of the reaction from some of my valued PLN members when I shared a photo of a (nerf) Crossbow training aid from today’s “Leaving ADDIE for SAM” workshop. *

I was laughing at myself because, in hindsight, I probably should have added a little context to the image. Read the rest of this entry

Design Thinking for Educators

See on Scoop.itThe Toolkit

Design Thinking is a mindset. Design Thinking is the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge. That kind of optimism is well needed in education.

Mark Sheppard‘s insight:

Targeted mostly for the K-12 segment, that shouldn’t preclude other L&D professionals from reviewing, learning, and applying the basic concepts.

See on www.designthinkingforeducators.com

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